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Council Corner: Sustainable Economic Development

This week's opinion letter from the City Council comes from Councilmember Charlie Bronitsky.

At our recent all day Team Building Meeting, we discussed and considered the key issues facing the City and priorities of addressing them. One of, if not the most important issue discussed was the development of a sustainable economic development plan and I am pleased to say that there was unanimous consensus on the Council to make this a high priority.

Many of my Council Corners have discussed our overall budget deficit and the steps necessary to put our budget back into balance in the next two years. Economic Development is another aspect of that plan but it also needs to deal with the mid-term and long-term economic viability of our City and the services that it provides.

Our City is changing. We are generally out of undeveloped land and many of the developments in our City are turning 30 and 40 years old, with some even older. Our shopping centers have vacancies and some are in need of repair and maintenance. Redevelopment projects and the 15 acres development are moving forward and need to be properly integrated with our community. It is these types of issues that call out for us to take a look at sustainable economic development for our City.

My vision for this process starts with a needs assessment, done on a global basis. Many suburban economic development efforts are geared towards local business. It is my hope that our plan will be based on the needs of the residents and the local businesses. As I see Foster City, we have two populations: the population of residents that use the City’s facilities and businesses on the weekends and evenings; and the population of people who work in the City and use its facilities and businesses during the work day. While there is clearly some overlap in these populations, they also have differing needs. In addition, our businesses are not just retail businesses but span a broad range of business efforts and sizes, from some of the largest companies in the world, to some mom and pop businesses that have been operating here since even before the City was chartered.

What makes companies and people move their business to Foster City? What would incentivize residents to shop more at their local shopping centers? What synergistic relationships can we help our large businesses to build here so that they remain and expand here? Do our shopping centers need to be revitalized and what types of products and services should the stores in those centers offer? These are but a few of many questions that need to be answered before we can start to look at the development of an economic model.

Thus, it is my hope that you will soon be hearing from the City, asking you these questions. Participation in this process by the residents and the businesses is key to the development of a plan that works. Our City is unique, even in its own environs. We have no downtown and we have no El Camino running through the middle of our City. We are, however, at the geographic center of the Peninsula and at the crossroads of two major freeways that are highly trafficked and we are easy to get to. We have a safe and fun community and offer many advantages to our residents and the employees of our businesses. Now is the time to start to better understand what our populations need and want and to build a model that sustains that economically, environmentally and socially.

I hope that you will see the importance of getting involved in this process. Outreach can be difficult and although I know we will try to reach as many as we can, we will not succeed in reaching everyone. Thus, this my call to you to get involved in your City. Don’t wait, take the first step. Email, call, write, do whatever you can to get your voice heard, your needs known. It is only by getting a broad range of feedback that we can have the information necessary to make the best decisions possible.

This is an exciting time for Foster City. We are at geographic and operational crossroads. This is the time for you to help to build the City you want to live in. Don’t miss the chance.

Share your ideas with me by email at cbronitsky@fostercity.org or call me at (650) 286-3504.

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